For this, the first installment of Jumping Sharks, I chose a crime-thriller styled after the classic film noir detective films we’ve come to love and know so well…. with dinosaurs. That’s right, dinosaurs. Imagine taking every cliché, every stereotype of a film noir, and combining them into a movie. Distill the essence of Prairie Home Companion’s Guy Noir, Private Eye – itself already the purified spirit of film noir – and you have something coming close to Anonymous Rex. Then add dinosaurs.
Let’s start with the basics – this is a SyFy (then Sci Fi) Channel original movie, made in 2004. It is loosely based (according to Wikipedia, only the overall concept was kept, and few of the actual details) on the novels Anonymous Rex and Casual Rex, by Eric Garcia. Vincent Rubio (Sam Trammell, True Blood) is a private investigator, who also happens to be a Velociraptor. His Triceratops partner Ernie Watson (Daniel Baldwin, Cold Case, Vampires) takes a case involving an apparent suicide which quickly leads to questions about the dead dino. From there, the plot progresses basically as you’d predict – murder, cover-up, conspiracy, cult, China Town, dinosaurs.
The movie itself was not bad, at least, not by SyFy standards (for those of you unfamiliar with what that truly means, keep following this blog as it develops – SyFy Channel will be a staple of mine). While the acting is mediocre, the plot cliché and predictable, and the writing way too concerned with reminding the viewer that yes, dinosaurs are in fact still alive, when the movie gets away from the dinosaur thing, it just comes across as cliché and predictable. Not bad, just kinda boring.
That’s not to say there was nothing good here. The CGI was definitely a step above what I’m used to in SyFy original movies, and the movie never quite took itself too seriously. At the same time, it raised some good, universal questions about what it means to be a person, and it even had two moments of almost poignant metaphor, which lasted just long enough for the metaphor to be beaten over the viewer’s head, completely ruining the effectiveness.
So how did this movie jump the shark, you might ask? Well, aside from the whole “dinosaur” thing (the accepted premise of this movie, after all), dinosaurs in society maintain their secret through the use of disguises – holographic disguises. Which just raises the question that, if dinosaurs have personal holographic devices, why have they not been able to dominate the whole of the planet and forced humanity into servitude? Why are they not at least flying around in hover cars, or hunting using lasers, or even just using 3D holographic entertainment? Moreover, why are all the dinosaur mannerisms so very distinctly human, even when in the privacy of their own homes? More to the point, evolutionarily speaking, how can dinosaurs talk with such distinctly human voices? The movie never attempted to answer any of these questions, and maybe that’s all for the best, since none of them really relate to the plot more than tangentially. But the fact remains that, for whatever reason, questions along these lines kept drifting into my mind, distracting me from the dinosaurs and predictability.
Though there is something to be said for watching Daniel Baldwin sprout a Triceratops head to gore a guy into a fence.